Magazine article Information Today

BUDDIE Awards Cool Communication

Magazine article Information Today

BUDDIE Awards Cool Communication

Article excerpt

s the new year opens, it's awards time, and we're not talking about trivial entertainment awards such as the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys. It's more important to recognize good information sources, especially in the present age of search engine domination, when most people get their information from the first page of a Google search. This is the mission of the BUDDIE award, for Best Unknown Database, an Information Today tradition since 1989.

There are three criteria for the database or website that wins a BUDDIE:

* It has content that is of substantial importance or interest to large numbers of information users.

* It is well-designed and maintained.

It is unknown or, at least, less well-known than it deserves to be.

This year's winner-do not look ahead!-has its roots in the Age of Enlightenment, yet it tackles today's pressing challenges using the coolest communication technique ever.

Fm pleased to announce that the 2013 BUDDIE winner is ... thersa .org. This is the website for RSA, which stands for the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Admit it -you didn't see this coming.

Enlightenment Roots, Modem Issues

RSA, founded in a London coffee shop in 1754, is a classic product of the Age of Enlightenment belief in progress and improvement. It now has 27,000 members and an active roster of research and discussion programs. It is a private organization that is supported by contributions from members, companies, and foundations. Today, RSA's tagline is "21st century enlightenment." Its stated mission addresses the question, "Can we go on like this?" RSA dissects accepted wisdom that no longer serves today's needs, with disciplined investigation into new ways of thinking and acting.

RSA is no ivory tower think tank. Its Action and Research Centre carries out dozens of on-theground, practice-oriented research projects. Most of these are local, addressing needs faced by England in education, finance, and governance. The RSA site has the reports and studies, as well as other publications covering its programs and research.

RSA is more widely known for its Events series, with more than 150 public lectures and discussions annually. These reflect RSA's mission on the broadest scale, with probing analysis and new thinking about society's manifold challenges. Most of the speakers are British, but RSA also attracts thinkers and scholars of international repute, which in the past few years have included Chris Anderson, Stewart Brand, Amitai Etzioni, Niall Ferguson, Howard Gardner, Jonathan Haidt, Michael Pollan, Jeffrey Sachs, Peter Singer, and Joseph Stiglitz. The site has videos of most presentations from 2008 and audios of all presentations from 2011. It's a lot like TED but, in keeping with its BUDDIE status, is much less well-known.

The RSA site itself is attractive and intuitive. The publication and presentation collections have a simple browsing structure and a fulltext search function. There are no ads or solicitations for support. In addition to its content collections, the site is an active community, with dozens of ongoing discussions and comment threads. These, in a welcome departure from the pervasive coarseness of online discussion, are generally well-mannered and thoughtful, even while engaging in spirited debate.

RSA Animates

You might be thinking, "Well Mick, this all sounds OK, but does thersa. …

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